In 45BC, the Roman civil war, which had been raging between the forces of Pompei and those of Julius Caesar, was brought to an end in Caesar's favour at the Battle of Munda. The site of the Roman Spanish town of Munda is open to some doubt, but there are those, not least the inhabitants of Monda itself, who look at the similarity of names and declare that Munda and Monda are one and the same. It is highly unlikely, but Monda likes the story and clings tenaciously to it.
It is a tiny town with a population of less than two thousand, beyond Ojén along the C-337 road, crouching in a mountain valley at a height of 1200ft. A few years ago it was a much-favoured drop-out spot for hippies without the inclination or energy to reach Marrakech or India. These have now largely disappeared and left Monda to its own devices, perhaps because the recently built road linking it to Marbella, and the rapidly developing suburbs have made it too accessible and bourgeois.
Its dominant feature, which the approaching visitor can hardly miss, is the castle which stands above it. Architecturally the castle – actually an hotel - is an acquired taste which many may not wish to acquire, but inside it is sumptuously decorated in Moorish style and offers superb accommodation and cuisine.
It has a long history. The site was originally occupied by an Ibero-Roman fortified enclosure established in the 3rd-1st Centuries BC by the Romans for use by the indigenous Iberian population and to protect the road to the more important town of Coín. When the Romans left it fell into decline and remained neglected until the Moors came along and used the spot to build a fortress.
Monda fell to the Christian reconquerors in 1485, but the fortress remained more or less intact until 1570 when, after an abortive Arab uprising, it was demolished. The Christians did not consider Monda important enough to warrant a new castle of their own, and the ruins were left to rot.
They were ignored for over 400 years until, in the mid-1970s, a German aristocrat bought what little was left and began an ambitious re-building project. Eventually he tired of what he considered endless Spanish bureaucracy and sold out to a group of determined English entrepreneurs who completed the work and opened the place as a luxury hotel.
Monda may seem an odd place to establish such a grand venture, but its new accessibility to the coast makes it an ideal spot for a romantic weekend or for visiting businessmen who prefer to stay in a place less brash and bustling than Marbella.
Without its castle hotel and its dreams of past glory, Monda would be a town without an identity, so we should not begrudge it either. The hotel bar will no doubt buzz with tales of the battle of Munda for centuries more.